Dylan Jones: If you ask me

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The Independent Online

If you ask me we don't yet know quite how good Mad Men is going to be. The second series has just started in America, and in New York people could talk of little else. Yes there was the election and yes there was some noise about the partial rejuvenation of the restaurant scene in New Orleans, and yes there was a lot of talk about the problem with Mike Myers' career (well, at least in my taxi there was), but what most people wanted to talk about, was the world inside the Sterling Cooper ad agency. The second series of Mad Men is set two years on from the first, and this time around the men in the grey flannel suits are charged with having to try to come to terms with the emerging cultural shifts that were fleetingly seen then. It's 1962, and the counter-culture is seeping into the mainstream, causing anxiety both at home and at work.

The hedonism of the late Fifties and early Sixties – a male-dominated club where one drank, smoked and ogled one's secretary – is now in a bubble waiting to burst, as ominous noises from the underground are heard faintly on Madison Avenue. Initially Mad Men was enjoyed for its surface smarts, its design sense (the early Sixties always looks good on camera) and for the men's clothes. But the longer you watch, the longer you realise that this isn't just a noirish soap dressed up like a fashion show – ie Desperate Husbands – there is actually a narrative arc that is forcing the characters to take control of themselves as they begin to realise they're living in a decade of change. Big change.

As the New York Times said last month, "There is a mournful, autumnal pulse to even the gayest office parties and supper club sorties, but it mainly goes unheeded." The Good Life is still synonymous with the American Dream, but in series creator Matthew Weiner's mind it isn't even being given a look-in this time round. Remember, this is a world before the assassination of Kennedy, when anything was possible – well, anything but the assassination of a President. Personally, I think Mad Men is going to get better and better, although I'm slightly concerned that Don Draper (the star of the show, played by Jon Hamm) is going to have some sort of panic attack when he first sets eyes on the Beatles. Seriously, what's he going to do with his wardrobe?



Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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